Pelosi Nominated to Be Speaker Two More Years, Clark Elevated to Assistant Speaker

November 18, 2020 by Dan McCue
Democratic Leaders for the 117th Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (at podium) and, from left, Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip James Clyburn.

WASHINGTON – House Democrats nominated Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to lead the chamber for another two years on Wednesday in a virtual voice vote that reflected a triumphant rebound in her stature among members, two years after a rebellious faction tried to topple her.

Though some members grumbled that perhaps the time had come for a change after Democrats failed to expand their majority in the House as expected on Election Day, the dissatisfaction over the election never coalesced into a movement.

Two years ago, 32 Democrats opposed Pelosi in the secret balloting for Speaker-designee, arguing the time had come for a changing of the guard. Four of those opponents lost their bid for re-election to Republican challengers.

To secure the gavel, Pelosi will still need to secure a majority of the full House in January.

Fifteen Democrats opposed her in that public floor vote in 2019, and at least 10 of them are returning in the 117th Congress — theoretically enough to block her path, given the party’s slimmer majority next year.

But on Wednesday, observers on the Hill said Pelosi has already secured the support of several of those defectors and she’s believed to have enough votes lined up already to keep the gavel for another term.

Addressing reporters shortly after the vote for the Democratic leadership of the House, Pelosi told reporters she wished they could have seen the acceptance speeches.

“Because then you could have seen the common thread … the unity of our caucus … in values and vision, the knowledge of our subjects … and the strategic thinking that you all hear me talk about all of the time,” Pelosi said.

“All of it is connected to the hopes and aspirations of America’s family,” she said.

Asked about her longevity, she cited her statement two years ago when she said she’d abide by a move to limit her speakership then to four more years.

“I don’t want to limit any leverage I may have, but I made the statement,” Pelosi, 80, told the assembled reporters. However, she stopped short of explicitly saying these would be her final two years in the post.

The caucus also reelected Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., who is widely credited with helping President-elect Joe Biden win South Carolina and ultimately the party’s nomination.

Like Pelosi, both Hoyer and Clyburn ran unopposed. Unlike the speaker, their positions don’t need ratification on the House floor.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., long seen as a future successor to Pelosi, also ran unopposed and won a second term as House Democratic Caucus chairman.

But perhaps the biggest development of the day was the elevation of Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the caucus vice chair, to the post of assistant speaker.

Clark was challenged in the race for assistant speaker by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., the head of the Democrats’ policy and messaging arm.

“The challenges facing our country are great, but so are the possibilities,” Clark said after winning the election. “Our Caucus is resolute in our commitment to eliminating the virus, aiding families, and recharging our economy in the face of this pandemic.

“While vitally important, our work cannot end there,” she said. “This is the moment for America to unite together and finally build a nation that fulfills our promise of justice for all. We cannot settle for normal, but must instead expand the parameters of prosperity to ensure everyone has the same opportunities for success.”

As assistant speaker, Clark said her work will be guided by the “everyday Americans who have stood up this year to protect and strengthen our nation; from the heroic frontline workers who bravely put the security and health of others before their own, to the record number of Americans who took to the streets this summer and took to the polls this November, who energized our democracy and brought a renewed urgency to our fight for racial, climate, and economic justice.”

The endorsement of Pelosi and her leadership team came a day after House Republicans rewarded their top three leaders for the party’s success in congressional races two weeks ago, voting in favor of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney all keeping their positions in the 117th Congress.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy addresses reporters during his weekly news conference. (Photo by Dan McCue)

McCarthy, who was elected unanimously, said afterward that he expects “it’s going to be an exciting two years.”

The caucus will meet again tomorrow to select other members of its leadership team, including the role of caucus vice chair that Clark is vacating.

The contest pits Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, against Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

One race, for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, has been postponed until the week of Nov. 20 to give the candidates, Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif. and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. more time to campaign.

The chair for the 2020 cycle, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., last week decided not to seek another term after nearly a dozen vulnerable members she was working to re-elect failed to secure the approval of voters in their districts.

In addition, the outcome of Maloney’s race in New York’s 18th Congressional District has yet to be determined. Though he declared victory on Saturday, as of Wednesday afternoon, the AP had not called his race.

As of 1:40 p.m. Wednesday, The New York Times had him ahead of Republican challenger Chele Farley, 51.4% to 47.7%, with 21% of the votes in the district yet to be recorded.

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Tom Emmer, of Minnesota, will remain in his role of chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

McCarthy noted that under the auspices of Emmer “not one incumbent Republican lost” and with the additions of new GOP members, the Democrats’ will now have the slimmest House majority in decades.

He also commended Emmer on the diversity of the Republican candidates who won. In all, 29 women will join the House Republican ranks next year, a new record.

Two Republican members will have new roles in their caucus come January, including Rep. Mike Johnson, currently chairman of the Republican Study Committee, who will be the caucus’s next vice chairman.

Rep. Richard Hudson, of North Carolina, will be the caucus’ new secretary, succeeding Rep. Jason Smith, of Missouri, who is running for the ranking member spot on the Budget Committee.

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